Stealing from bear territory?

Stealing from bear territory?


Stealing from bear territory?

For many years Bellary meant intolerable heat, mosquitoes, pigs, bad roads, et al. Government transfers to Bellary were considered punishment transfers. Now the entire place has metamorphosised. Thanks to the sudden demand for iron ore by China, Bellary is now linked with power, big money, helicopters and BMWs.

The recently held Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) has brought in lots of investors proposing to put up mega steel plants in the Bellary area. The Government of Karnataka has formed the Vijayanagara Area Development Authority (VADA) to promote industries in the backward area of North Karnataka.

At present, within this VADA area, JSW Steel Limited has set up a 10MTPA plant and is already expanding to 16MTPA. The government has further approved 6MTPA Plant to M/s Arcelor Mittal; 6MTPA plant to M/s Brahmani Steels; 6MTPA to Essar Steel and 2MTPA to NMDC. All these plants will be about 30 to 35 km away from the Daroji Bear Sanctuary and the Hampi site.

The government has also cleared a 6MTPA plant to M/s Bhushan South Steel Limited (BSSL) and the land allocated in Gadiganur village borders the only Sloth Bear Sanctuary in Asia – The Daroji Bear Sanctuary. This has come as a rude shock for many naturalists and nature lovers.

For millions of years, the rock-strewn hillocks that stretch between Daroji of Sandur taluk and Ramasagar of Hospet taluk in Bellary district has been home to bears, leopards and many other animals. Bears in this area have been moving freely in the valley, which is an important corridor. The proposed steel plant blocks this corridor which may result in genetic inbreeding and their eventual death.

Man-animal conflicts grow as their habitat shrinks. The pollution from the steel plant poses a serious threat to the sensitive habitat which is also home to the critically endangered Yellow throated Bulbul.  

As per the general guidelines of Karnataka Pollution Control Board and Notification of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) S.O.470 (E), for setting up of industries, permission should not be granted to any primary metallurgical industry within 25 kms to an ecological and archaeologically sensitive area (as measured from the boundary of the industrial establishment).

It is also learnt that according to the guidelines from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (FC division) F.No.5-3/2007-FC(Pt) dated August 19, 2010, environment clearance (EC) has to be obtained from National Board of Wildlife if any projects are proposed within 10 kms from the boundary of sanctuaries/national parks.

Daroji bear sanctuary

The hill ranges in the vicinity of Hampi are believed to be part of the Kishkinda valley in Hindu mythology, ruled by Hanuman and Jambavantha (the bear god). True to this mythology, one can see that sloth bears abound in this region. In October 1994, the Government of Karnataka declared 5,587.30 hectares of Bilikallu reserve forest as Daroji Bear Sanctuary. Later, another 26-sq-km area of Bukkasagara reserve forest was added to the Bear Sanctuary.

A range of flora and fauna mark the only sanctuary in the Hyderabad Karnataka region.
It is home to more than 150 sloth bears, leopards, hyenas, jackals, wild boars, porcupines, pangolins, star tortoise, monitor lizard, ruddy mongoose, pea fowls, partridges, painted spur fowl, quails etc. About 200 species of birds and 50 species of butterflies have also been documented in this sanctuary in a preliminary survey.

The sanctuary has innumerable wild fruit-bearing trees and bushes. Kavale (carissa carandas),  jane (grewia teliafolia), ulupi (grewia salvitidia), nerale (eugenea jambolana), bore (zyziphus jujuba) etc. are a few of the scrub forest species which are found in the sanctuary.

These trees and bushes yield fruits one after the other. The bears eat these fruits and the seeds in their droppings help in the regeneration of the forest. The authorities have also started raising custard apple and bore trees within the range of the sanctuary.

Bears are fond of termites and honey, which are also available in plenty. Water holes built inside the sanctuary helps the animals to quench their thirst during extreme summer.

World Heritage Site

The proposed steel plant is also within 25 kms from the archaeologically sensitive area – the UNESCO’s World Heritage site of Hampi. Hampi is both a historical and a religious place in India. This was the capital of the  great Vijayanagara empire which ruled south India during 14th to 16th century AD.

Our responsibility

Public participation is the only way in which the sanctuary can be protected. Naturalists, environmentalists and activists across the country have already written letters to Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, asking him to intervene and take immediate measures to ensure that the plant is shifted from the proposed site. 

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